Mawlana Hazar Imam landed in Hyderabad 26 February for the third leg of his Diamond Jubilee trip to India. One of AKDN’s newest projects in India is the Aga Khan Academy in Hyderabad, which he inaugurated in 2013. In this article we will look at some projects undertaken by students at the Academy that combine creativity and civic responsibility.

The Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad provides exceptional students from all backgrounds with a well-rounded education of the highest international standards. Students are selected based on merit, and financial aid is provided to ensure that socio-economic status does not limit access.

The Academy’s programme has been designed to promote academic excellence, leadership skills, social responsibility and a pluralistic outlook. The aim of the Academy, which has been accredited as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, is to develop home-grown leaders with a strong sense of ethics and civic responsibility, who will contribute to India’s future. Students develop understanding of both global and local issues, and are encouraged to use critical thinking skills and creativity to find innovative solutions to problems.

Three Ismaili students in particular have recently embraced this combination of creativity, civic responsibility, and service, as part of their learning about global and local issues.

Grade 10 student Sazil Ramani has attended the Academy since it opened in 2011 and credits the Academy with helping him to discover a passion for photography and design.

“This year, I got to not only act in the annual summer productions as part of our drama class, but also designed the posters and brochures,” Sazil said. “The Academy has given me many opportunities to prove myself, and I am sure this will help me in choosing a career in the future.”

In addition to creativity, Sazil also enjoys the sense of civic responsibility that has been instilled in him while at school.

“For me, the best part of school is when we have service class, because I am very keen on serving my society and helping the community around me develop faster.”

Sazil combined his passions for creativity and service by producing a video that compiles images and video clips of the diverse service experiences of his classmates and himself volunteering at various government school sites.

Nabil Patel is a Grade 11 student at the Academy. In addition to achieving both academic and athletic excellence, Nabil has also been encouraged to pursue photography. He was able to attend beginner and advanced photography workshops at the Academy and later became a teaching assistant for those same workshops. Nabil also runs the Academy’s photography club, teaching others how to tell stories through still images.

As part of his IB Personal Project, Nabil wrote a book about photography.

“Many questioned the need for this book and said there were books on photography available on Amazon and other easily accessible platforms. I told them that my book is different because it starts with the basics of photography and steadily progresses to more advanced practical applications. I also wanted to write a book that was affordable for another kid like me who could try his/her hand at photography and give it a shot,” Nabil said. He has since published the book, titled Click! Your Guide To Photography, and made it available online.

Nabil has also been able to contribute his photography skills to the Jamat by working for the National Task Force for the Jubilee Celebrations as a photojournalist.

“My work has been published through The Ismaili India on multiple mediums and featured in the Times of India student edition. I also assist the Aga Khan Academy’s communications department with in-house media projects and publications,” Nabil said.

Sayema Mayesha is also a Grade 11 student who used her IB project to demonstrate her creativity and talent. Sayema directed and produced a short film to raise awareness for children’s rights, which was screened in February 2017 at the Academy’s annual innovation expo.

Her film, titled One Sky, Two Souls observes the difference in the everyday lives of privileged children, in comparison with those who are less fortunate.

“As a student of the Academy, where children are given the opportunity of holistic education regardless of their financial background, I could not have worked on a better project,” Sayema said.

Similar to the other students, Sayema has used her creative endeavour to contribute to social change, by discussing children’s rights.

“Ensuring child rights today will ensure a brighter future for all tomorrow. The entire process has taught me many aspects of filmmaking. It has taught me to become a leader while working with a team. I have learned how to deliver stories to the world through my own lens.”